The Guardian (4)

Down the river of stories – AS Byatt on a snakily sensous novel that evokes the smells and colours of the Amazon – The Guardian, 01.06.2010

English, Press  

“To a traveller looking out of the plane window at night, it seems as if a river of stories is flowing into an invisible city.”Milton Hatoum’s first novel ends with a magical description of Manaus, a city approached by air and water, but not by road, across the Amazon jungle.

Families and relations – The Guardian, March 15, 2003, by Isobel Montgomery and David Jays

English, Press  

The Brothers, by Milton Hatoum, translated by John Gledson (Bloomsbury, £6.99)

Brazilian novelist Hatoum creates an archetypal tale of brotherly hate that shakes a family. Twins grow up in a Lebanese family living in the Amazon port of Manaus: Yaqub the quiet engineer, pale as a chameleon on a damp wall; dissolute Omar, with “the whiff of a jaguar’s skin”. One of them is our narrator’s father – the illegitimate son of the family’s indefatigable maid, he spends the novel watching and wondering who spawned him, sobersides or spendthrift. Loping through the middle decades of the past century, the brothers’ enmity becomes epic, Cain and Abel up the Amazon. Hatoum’s singularity is to assemble a world of pungent detail – peppery stuffed fish, pulpy fruits – which is blown by melodramatic gusts of rancour. John Gledson’s absorbing translation keeps its senses on full alert for a slumping hammock or the aniseed tang of arrack, for public brawling and sweaty sexual rivalry.

Grieving hearts – The Observer, August 26 2007, by Olivia Laing

English, Press  

Tale of a Certain Orient, by Milton Hatoum. Bloomsbury £7.99

At the end of this strange and intricate novel, the narrator describes her attempt at telling the story of her extended Lebanese family, exiled in the Brazilian town of Manaus, ‘as if I were trying to whisper to you the melody of a stolen music’. The analogy is an accurate one: there is a lyrical, symphonic quality to Hatoum’s writing that is peculiarly beguiling. His book amounts to a love letter to a lost world, with all the attentive recollection of physical details – parrots, clocks, slaughtered sheep, Christmas feasts and all – that the time traveller requires. Dramatic tension comes through the slow revelation of a series of secrets, key among them the mystery of the deaf-mute child Soraya Angela, whose silent presence heightens tensions within her family with devastating consequences.

Out of Amazonia – Manaus forms an exotic backdrop to a bitter tale, by Maya Jaggi – The Guardian, 15 November 2008

English, Press  

Milton Hatoum’s early novels drew on his upbringing in the Brazilian melting-pot of Manaus, the rainforest river port legendary for its floating markets and extravagant opera house. Tale of a Certain Orient and The Brothers, explored the past of a city at the confluence of rivers and cultures that had lured workers and traders since the rubber boom of the 1880s – including Hatoum’s Lebanese Arab forebears, who exchanged the Mediterranean for the Amazon. The Brothers, translated from the Portuguese in 2002, confirmed Hatoum as one of South America’s leading contemporary novelists.